In Afghanistan, just after the fall of the Taliban, a bookseller named Sultan Khan allowed a western journalist to move into his home and experience firsthand his family's life in the newly liberated capital city of Kabul.
From that act of openness emerges this remarkable book, already an international bestseller--the most intimate look yet at ordinary life for those who have weathered Afghanistan's extraordinary upheavals. One husband, two wives, five children, and many other relatives sharing four small rooms opened up their lives, unforgettably.
First is Sultan himself, a man whose love of books has exposed him to great risks over his thirty years in the trade. He has seen his volumes censored, ripped apart, even burned in the street by the Communists and the Taliban. Each time he rebuilt his business, hiding the most controversial texts, surviving prison, traveling treacherous back roads to Pakistan to order much-needed schoolbooks. He takes joy in selling books of history, science, art, religion, and poetry, and defends his business against competitors and theft with a primal ferocity.
But Sultan is also a committed Muslim with strict views on filial respect and the role of women. We meet his wife, Sharifa, when she learns that Sultan is taking a new bride, as his status in the community dictates. Despite custom, it is agonizing for the mother of Sultan's children to see her place usurped. We follow their teenage son, Mansur, as he embarks on his first religious pilgrimage, which embodies all the excitement of youth's first rebellion. And we see Sultan's younger sisters, as one coquettishly prepares for her wedding while another seeks a job to escape her family's tight grip.
Stepping back from the page, award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad allows the Khans to speak for themselves about their joys, sorrows, rivalries, loves, dreams, and temptations. Through this close-knit household, we gain an intimate view-as few outsiders have seen it-of life in an Islamic country just beginning to find its way between the forces of modernity and tradition.
Washington Post Book World
...an admirable, revealing portrait of daily life in a country that Washington claims to have liberated but does not begin to understand. Seierstad writes of individuals but her message is larger....
... a compelling portrait of a country at a crossroads.
The New York Times Book Review - Richard McGill
Seierstad is a sharp and often lyrical observer of Afghan domestic life. Even in Ingrid Christophersen's slightly stiff translation, ''The Bookseller of Kabul'' reads like a novel and is absorbing reportage....From a strictly literary perspective, ''The Bookseller of Kabul'' is an effective portrait of one rather unhappy Afghan family. It is certainly the most intimate description of an Afghan household ever produced by a Western journalist.
The Washington Post - Mark Hertsgaard
… [Seierstad's] closely observed, affecting account of the family's daily life, and especially of the virtual slavery its females endure, suggests that change will come slowly if at all to Afghanistan … Seierstad writes of individuals, but her message is larger, and no one who reads it will be sanguine about transforming this very traditional culture into a modern democracy anytime soon.
An international bestseller, it will likely stand as one of the best books of reportage of Afghan life after the fall of the Taliban.
Library Journal - Lucille M. Boone
For more than 30 years, Khan risked arrest by selling books and other printed materials. Yet at home, in a cramped, war-battered apartment shared by mother, siblings, wives, children, and nephews, Sultan is a tyrant.... Seirestad presents a vivid, intimate, yet frustrating picture of family life after the Taliban. Her book has been translated into 14 languages and is sure to be of interest to general readers here who are curious about life in Afghanistan.
A slice of Afghanistan today, rendered with a talent for fine, sobering prose and strange, unnerving settings that recall Ryszard Kapuscinski.
Booklist - Ellen Loughran
....Family members come across as very real, creating understanding at the least and sympathy at best....this fascinating, thought-provoking look at Afghanistan will add depth and a different point of view to nonfiction collections.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cynthia Martinez Insightful I enjoyed reading this book very much and wished I was there in the flat with the women to share their experiences. The book was well written, very descriptive and touching.
Rated of 5
by kay The Bookseller of Kabul Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad has written a compelling disclosure of life in a "middle class" Afghani family. Considering the extreme strictures of that country, it is quite amazing that she was accepted into the "Kahn"... Read More
Rated of 5
by Janas Khan Injustice done with family members of Sultan Khan I personally met some of the family members of Sultan Khan, "The book seller of Kabul" and they swore that most of the content of this regarding sisters of Sultan Khan were not true. They claimed that this book gave them a bad name to... Read More
Rated of 5
by T Review by a High School Student I am a person that usually enjoys reading and learning about other cultures. But this is the single worst book I have ever read. This book does not have a plot. It is a collection of irrelevant short stories that are only vaguely linked. It is a... Read More
Rated of 5
by Adilene Martinez A Must Read And I Will Tel You Why . . . I've just completed reading The Bookseller of Kabul about a few minutes ago. This book has not a single climax, it has various. It has as well various antagonists and protagonists. It is like a lot of little stories gathered together in a... Read More
Rated of 5
by Guendalina just Asne This isn't simply a book it's poetry. Asne Seierstad is an excellent writer. She cares about people and you can feel it from the first to the last page. She gives every single (not for me) detail of people , so actually you can almost see the... Read More
The Camel Bookmobile follows an American librarian who travels to the arid bush of northeastern Kenya to give meaning to her life, but ultimately loses a piece of her heart. A compelling novel that shows how one life can change many, in spite of dangerous and seemingly immutable obstacles.
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